We're fascinated by these fun plants that fit right in with witches, goblins, and vampires. Twisted succulents, foul-smelling flowers, and ghoulish ferns all make delightfully creepy additions to our indoor gardens.

By Derek Carwood
October 30, 2019
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Whether you’re planning an eerie botanical-themed Halloween party or a Día de los Muertos celebration to honor the gardeners that have passed before us, these easy-to-grow, yet amusing oddities from the plant kingdom will enliven your gathering. From spiky specimens that’ll thrive even with a bit of neglect, to monster-like mutants that’ll sprawl from their pots in search of light, they’re sure to catch the eye of all who behold them. Though you can grow and enjoy these plants any time of year in your home, their otherworldly appearances seem especially fitting around Halloween.

Walters Gardens/MadAboutMangave.com

1. Mangave 'Desert Dragon'

Featuring long, narrow, gray-green leaves covered with brownish-purple spots, Mangave 'Desert Dragon' from Walters Gardens sprawls from the soil in a low, spider-like heap. This fast-growing succulent needs bright, direct light and regular watering, but if you neglect this chore, 'Desert Dragon' will live up to its name and be just fine until you can give it another drink. It is hardy to Zones 9-11, so you can try it outdoors if you live in a warmer region.

Buy It: Mangave "Desert Dragon," $23, Plant Delights Nursery

2. Epiphyllum hookeri, subspecies guatemalense 'Monstrosa'

Don't let its monstrous name scare you away—this plant is also referred to as a type of orchid cactus. These cacti are epiphytes, which means that in the wild, they usually grow on other plants, not in soil. However, they will do just fine as a potted plant so long as you give them very well-drained soil. 'Monstrosa' is a variety resulting from a mutation that causes the stems to twist, curl, and dangle like tentacles over the edges of a pot. It will do best in bright but indirect light and moderate humidity. Orchid cacti don't like to be in soggy conditions, so wait to water until the top inch of soil feels dry. When this creature is happy, it may reward you with fragrant, star-like flowers from time to time, but blink, and you’ll miss them because they only open at night and close by morning.

Buy It: Epiphyllum guatemalense 'Monstrose' Orchid Cactus, $19.99, Amazon

3. White Batflower (Tacca integrifolia)

The white batflower is arguably one of the most sinister-looking plants out there. Its large, green leaves appear innocent enough, but when it blooms, you may think you've come across a deep-space alien. It produces a cluster of small, dark purple flowers topped off with a set of ghostly white and purple-veined "wings" that stick straight up. Long, purplish “whiskers” hang down from the cluster, almost to the soil. These weirdly wonderful flowers usually appear from summer into fall, long enough to contribute a macabre accent to your Halloween decor. Place your batflower in bright but indirect light in a space with moderate humidity (it will appreciate a daily misting) and keep the soil evenly moist.

Buy It: 50 White Batflower Seeds, $11.95, Etsy

Thalia Romero

4. Toad Plant (Stapelia gigantea)

It would be more accurate to call this one “giant smelly starfish flower” rather than toad plant, but either way, it's a terrific succulent that most anyone could grow in a bright, warm windowsill. With slightly fuzzy stems and no spines, they look rather like a cute little cactus, but their teddy bear ways end there. Pollinated by carcass-loving insects in the wild, these plants produce large, five-point flowers that reek of death. It’s not uncommon for flies to lay eggs on the flower surface and the resulting larvae may be seen wriggling around the center of the flower!

Buy It: Potted Stapelia Gigantea, $14.00, Etsy

Denny Schrock

5. Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)

Resembling Cousin It from the Addams Family, this cactus gets its name from the long, filamentous “hair” surrounding the entire plant. But don’t be fooled by the soft appearance—beware the sharp spines hidden in that fuzzy-looking beard! This guy likes hot, bright, dry conditions, so place it in a south-facing window in direct sunlight and water sparingly when the top inch or two of soil in the container feels dry.

Buy It: Potted Hairy Old Man Cactus, $19.50, Etsy

6. 'Black Star' Calla Lily

Need a bouquet fit for a corpse bride? 'Black Star' calla lily's striking, funnel-shaped flowers are such a deep, rich purple color that they appear black. As houseplants, they grow best in bright, indirect light and need regular watering to keep the soil moist. These bulbous plants will go dormant in November, but should come back to life again the following spring. 

Buy It: Black Star Calla Lily Bulbs, $14.95, Eden Brothers

7. Grub Fern (Polypodium formosanum)

While it has the soft fronds associated with many ferns, this species also features pale green, wormlike growths below its foliage. These are actually rhizomes (stems) that grow above or below ground and pop up new fronds along the way. When those rhizomes trail over the edge of a pot, it's not hard to imagine them as the grasping fingers of the undead reaching up from the grave. This fun fern is easy to grow indoors in bright, indirect light and regular watering to keep the soil moist.

Buy It: Polypodium formosanum Grub Fern, $6.99, Black Jungle Terrarium Supply

8. Tillandsia streptophylla

Tillandsias (aka air plants) already seem preternatural because they have no roots to speak of and grow without soil. But this particular species has a ghostly pale appearance and wide, curving leaves that make it look like some kind of swamp monster with lots of tentacles. Because it doesn't need a pot to grow in, you'll have more flexibility when incorporating it into your Halloween decor. Just be sure to keep it in a bright place out of direct sunlight and dunk it in water once a week for about a half hour to keep it hydrated.

Buy It: Tillandsia streptophylla, $10.00, Etsy

After the rest of your Halloween decorations have been packed away, you can continue to enjoy these plants around your home. They'll blend in with your other houseplants with ease, especially dark-purplish Raven ZZ plant. You could also display them outside in the spring and summer to accent other container plants (we recommend pairing them with black succulents) for unusual and eye-catching displays to die for.

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